Assessment of the Status of the Sport Fishery for Walleye at Hilda Lake, 1997
Bill Patterson and M. G. Sullivan
To recover or maintain Alberta's walleye fisheries, a new walleye management strategy was implemented in 1996. In 1996, the walleye fishery at Hilda Lake was classified as vulnerable and a 50 cm (total length, TL) size limit in walleye was implemented in the sport fishery. In order to monitor the status of the walleye fishery at Hilda Lake, a creel survey was conducted during May to August 1997. Since the last creel survey conducted in 1986, the estimated number of anglers had declined 60% to 863 anglers. Angler effort declined by 40%, to 6.3 angler-hours / ha. The harvest of walleye had decreased by 92% to 55 fish. The catch rate on legal-sized walleye (>50 cm TL) during the 1997 survey was 0.016 walleye kept / hr. No walleye >50 cm TL (482 mm fork length, FL) were harvested in 1986. The catch rate on sub-legal walleye was estimated (using data from test fisheries) at 0.29 walleye caught / hour. The strength of these young year-classes is likely being maintained through the protection afforded by the 50 cm TL minimum size limit.
Based on the criteria used to classify walleye stocks in Alberta, the fishery at Hilda Lake should retain the classification of “vulnerable”. The walleye population in Hilda Lake is responding to this protective regulation. There is a high potential for recovery of this fishery if the protected year-classes survive in strong numbers to spawning and produce recruits.